Delivers us from idlers – more signage errors

Delivers us from idlers – more signage errors

Remember the last article about the sign in need of proofing? This sign stirs up a few questions as well:

Sign found on construction sign: No idling Turn off engine Delivers will be denied

Each time I walk by it, I begin to itch. I get this overwhelming urge whip out a black marker and add the missing IE. It’s such a tiny omision but it drives me nuts. I also want to stand in front of the sign and shout out in my best Ian McKellen voice “IDLERS SHALL NOT PASS”, but somehow I don’t think anyone would get the joke.

For want of a good proofreader – layout tunnel vision

For want of a good proofreader – layout tunnel vision

We’ve all seen posters/signs that make us shake our head and mutter “whoa, what were they thinking”.  It’s usually an amusing typo or a grammatical error that raises our eyebrows. Occasionally it’s the layout that causes us to stop in our tracks and ask “wait, what?” We all lay clangers and, sometimes, we don’t spot them for months. It’s not easy catching your own mistakes, which is why a ruthless proofreader is worth their weight in dark chocolate.

A sign making the rounds on the Internet lately that had me blinking a few times in a bit of disbelief.

A badly designed poster example that appears to advocate abuse, rather than prevention

Proofing isn’t just about catching typos and grammatical errors. It’s also layout and how the product flows. And oh boy, a fresh set of eyes would have caught this before $ were spent.

I’ve made a couple things that looked ok on the monitor but when printed, it became obvious the layout altered the message. I find it endlessly fascinating the difference between design for a monitor or small screen and print. What works for an iPhone may not translate well to a large poster and vice versa. The above sign drives home how tricky even a basic sign can be. Our eyes follow natural paths that can have unintentional consequenses. A bad case of designer tunnel vision can blur the message. Everyone involved in the poster design knew what the message was, but didn’t stop to see it through new eyes. Lots of words to incorporate, really want to stress the primary message and not seeing how the words flow.  “We Support” is great – nice use of a friendly font that draws the eye to it. Then the mistake occurs. The focus is on child abuse not prevention. Such an easy mistake to make. Shrinking “child abuse” would have solved the problem. Increase size of “prevention” so it fills the sign, bumping month below to match the other 5 letter words would have created an interesting flow that would have emphasised prevention, which is kind of the point.

I have a folder with signs and posters that should have worked but didn’t for a variety of reasons. I keep them as a teaching tool for myself. I filter through them trying to figure out how a small change would have made a difference. I also have a folder holding what I think are spectacular examples of beautiful layout. I spend quite a bit of time looking at them, trying to figure out what makes them so successful. I have a thing for professional designers. Their work can have a profound impact on how we see the world around us – signs on buildings, posters, movies titles, magazines and books but we’re oblivious to the person(s) who created the work. Most of us flatter ourselves we can whip up a poster in no time because hey we have the software and a computer. But good design is so much more than knowing how to use the software. It’s an eye and feel for the work. It’s knowing how to communicate with an audience. Good design also means good proofreading. You can’t have the first without the second.



Ok TTC we need to talk – this is not a shelter

Ok TTC we need to talk – this is not a shelter

TTC, we need to chat. A long serious one about your complete lack of common sense. I’m not sure if the decision makers at head office have never traveled by bus or streetcar or they are utterly clueless about the purpose of bus shelters. Then again, you just may be punking us.

See, here’s the thing, this is not a bus shelter: Photo of TTC shelter showing complete lack of protection

Tell me, in what reality that would be considered shelter of any kind. The ads have better protection than customers. Or … is that the point – protect the ads at all costs.  Let’s go through the 2 major elements of bad design.

1 – slope + height of the roof. Who are you trying to kid here? This isn’t going to prevent customers from a good soaking when it rains.  The roof is too high and too sharply slanted. Pretty design; useless functionality.

2 – walls. Oh, yea, what walls? There’s 2 – count them. The big ad covered billboard along the back and an anemic wall on one end. Guess there’s never wind and rain coming from the other angles. Have you tried standing at one of these shelters? Please have the person who thought this was a good design contact me. I’d like to know how a wall-less shelter works.

I’m not a designer, but I know crap when I see it. I’ve waited at these stops during a cold, wet day. Trust me when I tell you they offer no protection. Toronto used to have some decent bus shelters in this city, but I’ve noticed they are slowly being replaced with this silliness. I realise the old shelters were a bit ugly and weren’t good spots to plaster paid ads, but they offered the chance to get out of the bitter wind, rain, snow and even intense sun. The streetcar stops are comically worse if you can imagine that.

Hire a good industrial designer.  They will ask you one vital question – What is its purpose? I’m quite sure they’ll tell you designing a shelter that sacrifices protection so ads have maximum visibility to car drivers is not a good idea. You need to make up your mind – are the structures for car drivers and advertisers or are they for TTC customers. I’m quite sure a good designer could design a decent shelter that allows ads and comfort to the cold, wet and weary.

Oh and one last comment, what did you do with the bench? On hot days, the bench seat allowed seniors a bit of respite. Nice move ripping them out. Guess everyone in Toronto is fit and healthy. No seats for you! Stay home if you can’t stand waiting for yet another delayed bus.  See, this is another area a good industrial designer could help you. They would who your customer base is and possibly suggest keeping the bench.

Here’s the deal. Stop calling them shelters. Admit you don’t care about customers and call them what they are – advertising posts geared towards drivers. If you don’t want to do that,  for the sake of TTC customers go hire a competent industrial design firm.

A 16 hr watch –  Did I miss the time change memo?

A 16 hr watch – Did I miss the time change memo?

I spend far too much of my time cruising the internet looking for silly things. And I’m rarely disappointed. If it isn’t people crying out “this egg cracker saved me so much time! I can now play with my children instead of breaking open eggs” (seriously, how many eggs does the average house need to crack in a week) its stuff like this: An example of bad design - a watch showing 16 hours

This falls under the utter design fail category. Count the feathers. I’ll wait, count them. Let’s see 1 2 3 4 …. 14 15 16. Yes, 16 hour stops on the watch. Unless I slept through a worldwide conspiracy to change the number of hours in a day, the watch designer created a big oops. It’s pretty much unuseable. “Hey Mary, what time is it?” “Give me a minute, it’s hmm 14 o’clock”  “Ok thanks … wait … what?”  If the intent was to mark 15 min intervals, then again, big design fail. There is no distinction in feather sizes and there would have to be more feathers so it’s still a big old mess of “what time is it now”.

I have a passion for watch dials and have a small collection of vintage pocket watches. When done well, the faces are minature works of art. Exquisite and eye catching. But even the cheapest dollar pocket watches managed to get the hours correct. This? This is a thrown together piece to capitalize on the unwary. I mean, who in hell counts how many hours are on a watch?  Good luck getting to any appointment on time with this.

Chipmunk Lear – the unutterable cuteness of it all

Chipmunk Lear – the unutterable cuteness of it all

Toronto based theatre company, Canadian Stage is in the middle of their summer season. Poster for Canadian Stage Company's Shakespeare in the park showing a chipmunk wearing a crown

I stopped so hard to look at the season poster at my local coffee shop, I nearly fell over. Above is their earlier volunteer poster, I couldn’t find a straight up season poster anywhere to download. I tried to snag a photo of the original, but it was too high and the photo looks like crap. So,  we’ll look at their similar offering. It has the same font and images,   and conveys the same message.  I adore it for many reasons! The rich colour balance, clear fonts that promote readability and the undeniably adorable chipmunk in a crown pretty much scoops any audience in. Unless you are a chipmunk hater, there’s no way you can pass this poster by and not feel the itch to check out what it’s selling.

The photoshop job on the crown is excellent. The shadows, placement and integration is well done. Kudos to the graphic artist.  Getting back to the font, (another huzzah for the graphic artist), it was a good choice. There is a lot of written content on the poster, but the choice of the clean sans serif and spacing promotes incredible readability. It’s an example of how you can include lots of vital information without feeling cramped. The poster that caught my eye, was about 5″5″ up (way above my eye level) and over a counter. Despite that, it was easy to read.

As far as a selling point, well, it wins on many levels. First and foremost, it makes Shakespeare feel approachable, which is no easy job. It also conveys two ideas – theatre and nature. For those not familar with High Park, it is a 400 acre swath of green in the heart of Toronto and a perfect place for theatre in the park. Anyone in Toronto will instantly catch the reference. Nicely done. Finally, the obvious – cute sells, no doubt about that.

An all around fun, attractive poster.

You can read more on Canadian Stage here

Check out  High Park here

I guess it’s too much to hope for chipmunks in the staring roles.


Are you kidding? 303 slides on one webpage?

Are you kidding? 303 slides on one webpage?

I’ve complained about the absolute insanity behind the proliferation of slide shows – why use a couple of pages when dozens would do, right? But this one is the epitomy of stupid design.

screen capture of a slideshow that contains 301 slides That’s right 303 slides. No one will stick around for hundreds of slides when they can go over to a site like Is My Show Cancelled and find the same info in mere seconds. Bad designer, bad.